The task of gathering competitive intelligence or competitive information is something that many businesses do on a continuing basis. Knowing what the competition offers and how those offerings compare to similar products on the market can provide a business with tools to pull the attention of consumers away from the competition and entice them to spend their money elsewhere. Of course, there are ethical and non-ethical ways to go about collecting competitive intelligence. Here are a few examples of ethical processes that businesses of all sizes can use.
One of the first places to look for CI, or competitive intelligence, is in the marketing and sales campaigns initiated by the competitor. Often, carefully analyzing the way the business goes about promoting their products to the buying public will yield clues as to what the products will not do as well as what they will do. It is also often possible to use this public information to help tailor an advertising campaign that sends the subtle message that your products do the same thing, but either cost less or have several additional applications that your competitor fails to mention in their ads.
Along with analyzing the advertising of your competitors, gathering competitive intelligence also involves the task of analyzing products sold by your competitor. This requires nothing more than purchasing some of the products and learning all you can about them. You can make note of which ingredients are listed in the product and also try them in every possible application. Doing so may help you discover that some of the ingredients are more filler than active agents, and that your product contains an ingredient lacking in their formulas that does actually enhance the performance of the product.
With the advent of the Internet, it is now possible to obtain consumer opinions quickly and easily. Many different types of products are discussed on various consumer message boards. By simply using keywords to locate these boards, it is possible to gather thoughts and ideas from consumers on what the competitor’s products do and don’t do, how well they work, and what they would like to see in the way of expanding the uses for the products. This type of competitive intelligence can help you identify recurring trends in consumer wishes that could possible be integrated into your product line and advertised to great advantage.
Structured market research is also an effective way of analyzing other businesses. Direct mail campaigns focused on comparing several competitor products can yield some great ideas on how to successfully compete with your rivals. As with message boards, these direct mail questionnaires can also ask for ideas of what consumers want to see in products of this type. This type of competitive intelligence can be very helpful in shaping future advertising that points out how your products do things that other similar products don’t.
The idea behind ethically collecting competitive intelligence is to make use of every bit of information that is considered to be public and not proprietary. Ad campaigns, information contained on product labels, and consumer opinions and ideas can all be extremely helpful in crafting a sales strategy that points out the strengths of your products while subtly identifying the weaknesses in the competition’s product line.